Friday, December 12, 2008

A Photographic Journey through Madison

I was contacted by Turner Publishing to review the book, "Historic Photos of Madison," a photographic story of how this town has grown through two centuries, text and captions by Donald J. Johnson.

Visiting as a child, my family always did several things: strolled up and down State Street, a pedestrian walkway, lined with stores and restaurants, and we also admired the square, circling (or should I saw "Squaring") the Capitol.

There are a lot of rich photos of the square, Capitol, and State Street, among many other scenes. If you are familiar with the city, and you don't get disoriented on the square, then it is fun to try to place what part of the square certain structures were. Just this past Saturday, I was at the Inn on the Park, at the corner of South Carroll and West Main. Looking at this book, it's funny to see an old building, built in 1871, which was also a first-class hotel, in it's place. Although the square does look pretty similar, the storefronts are gone.

I was walking around the square the other day, when I pointed out to my friend that it's weird to see a Starbucks and a Walgreens right there. It doesn't fit, socially, or historically. I learned from the pictures, though, that there was comparable retail. You can see a Park Hotel Coffee Shop right about where today's Aveda Hair Salon is located.

Who knew that the first Capitol building wasn't even in Madison? When you picture the layout of down town, that's the first thing you think of, mainly the dome. The current structure (which is also beautiful, may I add), is the third Capitol in Madison. State officials wanted our building to replicate the U.S. Capitol (which it does). Because of this, they needed a much larger dome than was planned, and the original architect who was selected for his design was rejected, and committed suicide. The photo of this well known building without it's dome makes it look incredibly different. The design adds so much character to our politically active and thriving city.

As a runner, I have run through Olin-Turville Parl. In 1881, Olin-Turville Park was utilized for a summer series of concerts and lectures, training Sunday School educators, which continued for almost thirty years. The city now owns this park, and the only thing that probably resembles how it looked in the book, is the barn, that currently remains a popular shelter for picnics and gatherings.

Watching how the city evolved into where it is in 2008 is certainly interesting, especially for someone who lives in the heart of the city. From these photos, I could see what was around over fifty years ago and beyond, such as the Majestic, where I went on election day, the Orpheum, (where my sister and brother-in-law had their wedding reception), and Grace Episcopal Church, the oldest building on the square.

If you are a history buff, or are interested in learning about this city, I encourage you to read this book. I showed it to a friend of mine who loves to read, and is always curious about historical details, and they have been pointing out "fun facts" about Madison that they learned from reading it, every time we go by something that is documented.

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